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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Houston, We Have a Problem

All that I've written over the past 5 years (yes, last month I had my 5th blog anniversary) regarding sin in general and things like divorce and homosexual behavior and "same-sex marriage" and the like in particular are out there for you to see. I don't think I have felt the need to withdraw any of it. I still stand by it because it's what I see as plainly written in Scripture.

Having said that, I do think that we (those of us who believe that Scripture is plain on these subjects and authoritative as well) have a problem. You see, there is a stark difference between "That behavior is a sin" and "Meet Tom, the one doing the sin." The constant claim on the subject of the sin of homosexuality is that "You who claim it is a sin are really all just haters, homophobes, bigots." This notion is fed by people who admit, "I used to think it was a sin and then I realized I just thought it was icky" or the like. (In other words, it is fed by those about whom it is true.) On the other hand, it is not true in all cases. And these cases are the ones with the problem.

Take the divorced guy at your local church, for instance. Assuming your church hasn't been consumed by the liberalism that says, "Ah, don't worry, divorce is fine. No reason to care about that", your church's position would have to be "What God has put together let no man separate" (because, of course, it's Christ's position). So you stand on "Divorce is bad." But what do you do with the divorced guy? Is he bad? Is he ostracized? Is he put away? Unfortunately in many conservative churches that would be the case.

How about that woman who confesses she had an abortion? Now, the Bible is abundantly clear that murder is a sin and no one can really dispute that a baby is a person and killing that person with malice and forethought is murder, so, again, unless your church is poisoned by "Let the woman decide (if she is going to maliciously murder her baby)", you're going to stand on the principle that abortion is murder and, therefore, sin. But what about the sinner? What about the woman who did it? Is she, then, cut off? Is she abandoned, ignored, rejected?

The big one today is the homosexual. Male or female, if a person admits that they have sexual urges toward the same gender, any biblical church will have to tell them, "It's sin." What do you do now with that person who admitted it?

Many families have run into serious problems with this concept. They've believed that X was a sin, wrong, evil. And then they find that their son or their brother or their mother suffers from X, and the natural family affection collides with their moral principles ... and the wreck leaves a mess. What often happens is the error of changing moral principles. "Well, if my loved one is guilty of X, maybe X isn't so bad." We can't seem to separate X from the person or consider that the practice may be sin while loving the sinner.

This is a real problem for principled people. We must not surrender our principles. On the other hand, we dare not fail to love. So we must "speak the truth in love." Truth without love becomes cold, and love without truth becomes mushy. The need is to do both. We need to warn believers that divorce is wrong and then love the sinner who divorces. We need to assure women that abortion is murder and then love the murderer. We need to caution the homosexual that those activities are sin and then love the homosexual. Indeed, standing on the principle -- warning against sin -- is a part of genuine love. We just need to be careful to avoid confusing the sin with the sinner.

Two final thoughts here. First, if we cut off everyone who sinned, we'd cut off everyone. Keep that in mind. Second, if the one committing the sin is in need of correction or repentance or accountability and support, that won't be accomplished if we remove them from us, now, will it? If we are to love people to Christ, to bear one another's burdens, to bandage the wounded and heal the hurting, it's going to have to be done not by abandoning God's view of sin, but by appropriating God's method of loving the sinner.


Anonymous said...

I have had thoughts about this as well. So much of the homosexual debate is tainted by people who know homosexuals and know them to be really nice people. Even the media portrays them as really nice people. Then we see this and think, "it can't be all that bad." Or the thinking goes, "my pastor said it was really heinous before God, but Gay Bob doesn't seem that heinous to me."

There in lies the problem, we fail to see the sinfulness of sin. It's sinful regardless of whether we see the full wretchedness of it or not because Scripture declares it so. If Gay Bob is our standard of judgment, of course we will err in this way. But is Scripture is, we will not and we will see the need to point out to Gay Bob that he is indeed in need of repentance.

So many give in to the argument (my dad's third wife since her son is gay) because they cannot bring Scripture to bear on their loved ones. We must not make that mistake. Scripture must remain the standard, not culture or our friends or family members.

Stan said...

One side of the equation is "This is what God says" and we cannot stray from that. The other side of the equation is, "But ... I know someone doing that and how can I call them on it?" That is, standing on the truth becomes difficult when it's emotional. On the other hand, standing on the truth without love is equally a sin. We need to stand and love, stand against the sin because we love the sinner.

copperjil said...

This has helped me with a painful thing going on in my family. Recently I have fallen into a debilitating depression after learning that my daughter has stopped wanting God in her life. She is leaving her husband and five children to "become who she really is." Although God gave me the grace to respond to her confession with truth and love, since then I have been confused about how to regard her. My natural instinct is to rebuke or avoid her. But I love her so deeply that I know that is not a possibility. Love demands that I continue to show her love and be the ongoing example of a godly life.

Stan said...

copperjil, my prayers are with you and my heart goes out to you. Been there. Wrote a post on it a couple of years ago.

I should point out that I do not believe that Paul's injunction to "have nothing to do with them" is in reference to family. Family falls in a different category than "church members". It makes no sense at all, for instance, if a husband is in unrepentant sin (say, lying to his boss at work) so a wife separates from him. I think family in sin falls in a different category than "brothers and sisters in Christ" in sin.

One other thing. When someone stops "wanting God in her life", they are no longer classifying themselves as "Christian". Non-believers do not fall in the same category as believers. Non-believers desperately need the Gospel delivered in love, and I am convinced that this delivery system is a visual system -- the Gospel lived out in love in front of them. Paul said, "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world ... since then you would need to go out of the world" (1 Cor 5:9-10).

You're right. We cannot condone or encourage sin, but we must also love, especially the unsaved and particularly family. Being in a very similar situation myself, I can only rest on the Sovereignty of God because my best efforts are not good enough.